Newsletter LLECE: Questions for David Otero, TERCE National Coordinator in Nicaragua
How is the evaluation of education organized in Nicaragua? What are its approach and objectives?
In Nicaragua, the evaluation of education combines standardized tests and classroom learning assessment. Standardized tests are given as nationwide exams in 4th and 6th grades in Math, Language, and Literature. These nationwide tests are of a sampling nature; they are given to a representative group of the country’s students. Besides the nationwide tests, at the regional level, Nicaragua participated in the implementation of the SERCE (2004–2008), and is presently participating in the implementation of the TERCE (2010–2014). In these tests, students of 3rd and 6th grades of primary school are evaluated in Math, Reading, Writing, and in 6th grade also in Natural Science. In the case of teaching process learning evaluations, there are regulations that guide diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments, according to educational level and grade, while following the skills–based curricula of primary and secondary.
National tests have been designed to collect information on how student skills match curricular targets. In order to achieve this goal, specific domains in the areas of Language, Literature, and Math are selected; this way, teachers are provided with feedback that will help them improve.
In the case of the SERCE and the TERCE, we are very interested in explaining factors that are associated to learning achievements; this will help us contribute to education policies for primary school with quality empirical evidence.
Regarding classroom learning assessment, we try to show what students know what to do, how they do it, and how classmates coexist, according to the curriculum of their level, grade, and subject matter. This way, we can make corrections, overcome deficiencies, enhance teaching, increase learning achievements, and certify proficiency to pass to the next grade / level.
Which Nicaraguan public education policies do you consider as worth highlighting?
Several education policy actions have been geared towards enhancing the quality of education from the approach of increasing student learning achievement. Here are some examples:
-“Amor por los más chiquitos y chiquitas (Loving our smallest ones)” Program: Focused on families with pregnant women and children who are younger than 6 years of age. It is geared towards developing early childhood education, and also parental skills that will complement initial education learning (pre–school).
-Plan de Formación Continua y en Valores (Continuing and values education plan): Focused on developing processes of professionalization, training, and updating for all working teachers nationwide. A certificate program is being implemented in collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua – Managua (UNAN – Managua). It is aimed at 47.000 teachers, and it is composed of three modules: i) Public policies; ii) Values; and iii) Pedagogy and general didactics. Also, there are three training programs for primary school teachers in Math, Language, and Literature; secondary school teachers of 7th, 8th, and 9th grades in specific didactics; and TEPCEs coordinators.
TEPCEs are another education policy initiative that is aimed at enhancing quality. The TEPCE acronym stands for Education Evaluation, Programming, and Training Workshops. Once a month (usually the last Friday of the month), all teachers throughout the country meet to assess the plan implemented in the previous month and to program the following month. Primary school teachers meet at an “escuela base”, secondary teachers gather by specialty, primary multi–grade teachers meet by modality, and preschool teachers also get together. The “escuela base” is part of an educational hub where different neighboring schools of a certain district converge.
The Política de Responsabilidad Compartida (Shared Responsibility Policy) and the Alianza para la Prosperidad (Partnership for Prosperity) focus activities on the participation of stakeholders in different support programs, such as: Merienda Escolar (school meals), Paquetes Escolares (school supplies), Dignificación de Ambientes Escolares (decent school settings), Reforzamiento Escolar Solidario (strengthening school support), and Libros de Texto (text books), in Spanish and also in indigenous languages for communities that speak them as their mother tongue.
How do you think that the LLECE may contribute to the development of educational assessment in Nicaragua?
By supporting present programs and initiatives, and others that are to be launched. Among the new initiatives are the establishment of an education research team, curricular assessment, and a policy and a system of learning assessment. In this sense, technical assistance, training, systematization, and publications, added to backing for innovations are some of the contributions that the LLECE can make with the purpose of enhancing the quality of education in Nicaragua.
What do you consider as the main contributions that the Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (TERCE) can make to your country’s education policies?
The results that could be obtained from factors associated to learning achievement levels, and the possibility of conducting research on psychoaffective and psychosocial factors and pedagogic leadership at educational centers. These would be some of the contributions that the TERCE could make in Nicaragua.
At what stage is TERCE implementation in Nicaragua?
After evaluating the pilot implementation of the TERCE, the team that is coordinating full implementation has adopted new organizational structures and mechanisms, jointly with the Ministry of Education. Different administrative units have become involved: the primary school general division, the education statistics division, the secondary school general division, the projects division, the systems division (computing), and the office of learning assessment. From a multidisciplinary approach, provincial and municipal education representatives have also joined, in order to ensure the organization and the supply of information on students and schools nationwide.
We were invited to participate in the open questions workshop that was held in Lima, Peru, on 6 and 7 June. Three specialists from the areas of Math, Language, Literature, and Science attended the event.
We are waiting for UNESCO Santiago to send us the testing instruments on 25 June and the final samples on 30 June. In this sense, we have organized the first meeting with schools in collaboration with provincial and municipal authorities, and also the necessary training with municipal statisticians, in order to validate the information with students in a second communication. These two encounters will be held in July. That same month, we will begin printing tests and selecting test representatives, supervisors, and packers. The latter will pack and label the tests in August to make sure that training for test representatives and final implementation are guaranteed between 14 and 25 October.
Our work plan includes a flow of processes with a roadmap approach, which ensures monitoring and warnings in real time. This way, acquisitions and operational costs will be covered, and the final implementation of the TERCE in Nicaragua will be efficient and effective.
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